Retro Review: Three O’Clock High (1987)


Originally posted in 2011 on the Seattle PI blog. 

The 1980’s was full of high school movies. Out of that bunch, Three O’clock High is one of my favorites and one of the movies I’d love to see remade.

The Plot – Per IMDB  – A high school nerd, Jerry Mitchell (Siemaszko) is assigned to write a piece for the school paper about new boy Buddy Revell (Tyson), who is rumored to be a psychopathic nutcase. When Jerry accidentally touches Buddy, he says that they must fight in the parking lot at 3pm. Jerry will just about do anything to avoid the confrontation.

There is absolutely no way they make this movie in 2011. Not a chance. The recent anti bullying campaign put an end to my dream, not to mention all the ridiculousness that happens on our high school campuses. I’m not sure they want to encourage kids with the themes of this film.

The Set Up – Through the whole movie, Jerry is quietly obsessed with a girl named Karen. He almost causes an 18 car pile-up staring at her on his way to school. The only problem, Karen looks like she should be in college or the cover of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Edition, not high school student. You know who looks even older? The bully Buddy Revell! This guy looks an MMA fighter – he’s built like George St. Pierre. There’s no way he’s not a 25 years old masquerading as a high school student.

What starts the fight between Jerry and Buddy is a brief encounter in the bathroom. According to the other kids at school, Buddy is a “touch freak” and goes ballistic when someone touches him. Sure enough, when Jerry touches Buddy, he pins him against the urinal and flushes the toilet multiple times. Eventually he picks Jerry off his feet and slams him against the mirror. As if that’s not enough, Buddy challenges Jerry to a fight after school at 3 o’clock.

Jerry tries everything to get out of school so he doesn’t have to fight. He tries to plant a knife in Buddy’s locker but that backfires. Jerry even tries to leave school, but Buddy stabs a note into his steering wheel and also cut the wires under the hood. For some reason Buddy REALLY wants to fight after school. It’s like roid rage before we knew what roid rage was.

The funniest solution is Jerry’s attempt to hire another classmate to fight Buddy for him. He steals the money from the student store to pay his hitman. The Bill Walton looking kid charges him $$450 dollars for the fight. When Jerry and his pal show up in the library to watch, Buddy flattens the kid with one punch and knocks down every row of books in the library.

In an attempt to get dentition, Jerry tries to give a very inappropriate book report in class. During the report, he manages to smoke a cigarette, seduce his teacher, and he even kisses her in front of the class. After Jerry passes out, he awakens to the nurse telling him his teacher wants him to call her tonight. Yep, there’s no way they make this movie in 2011.

The Fight – Jerry gives Buddy the $450 dollars to walk away from the fight and he accepts it. This should be the end of the movie…but noooooo. Something clicks in Jerry and now he wants his money back AND wants to fight Buddy. What? Didn’t Jerry see him fade that kid in the library? We don’t know if Jerry can fight, but it’s strongly implied during the film that he can’t. I would have taken my losses and walked away.

Three o’clock hits and the entire school is watching them stand toe-to-toe in the parking lot. Realistic: A teacher shows up and says “There will be no fight this afternoon.” Unrealistic: Buddy decks the teacher and one security guard. He knocks them both out cold while the entire school watches. If you’re keeping count, Buddy has had three altercations, each of them ending in one punch. Buddy – 3, The Field – 0.

Once Jerry and Buddy engage in the fight, Jerry is taking punches like Ali in Zaire. Somehow he keeps getting up and giving Buddy a fight. The fight takes a turn when Buddy drops his brass knuckles. Jerry gets a hold of the brass knuckles and gives Buddy a Rocky-esque haymaker. Buddy is down and Jerry has won the fight. It’s a good think Jerry didn’t get hit with the knucks because the movie may have ended with his funeral.

The cops finally show up and they look for Buddy but he’s gone. I swear it was just like the end of Halloween. Buddy got up like Michael Myers and nobody saw it. Amazing.

The End – Jerry is on the hook for the money he stole from the student store to pay the hitman. The entire school shows up to buy paper to help Jerry raise the money back. The student store is packed with kids showing support when Buddy walks in. He quietly approaches the counter and drops the $450 dollars on the counter. I couldn’t tell if he was smiling because of his 5 o’clock shadow. Just when the ending couldn’t be more over the top, Jerry’s 80’s hot teacher walks in the store and french kisses him in front of everyone.

Yeah, there’s no way they’re remaking this.

Where are they now?:

Jerry Mitchell – Casey Siemaszko –He’s had a steady acting career appearing in Back to the Future II, Of Mice and Men, NYPD Blue, CSI: NY, Public Enemies, Law & Order, and The Event.

Buddy Revell – Richard Tyson – Richard’s been acting a lot too. Since Three O’clock High he’s been in, Kingpin, There’s Something About Mary, and Black Hawk Down. I was right about his age. He was 26 when this movie was made. No wonder he was twice as big as everyone else.

Karen – Liza Morrow – She was only in two TV series after this film.